Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Co-Sleeping Nightmares

The scene this morning.
I hate co-sleeping with my baby. I do it, but I hate it.

Here are a few things you should know:

1. Max has been a terrible sleeper since the day he was born. Hates to sleep. Never seen anything like it.

2. He isn't really a baby anymore. He's a 17-month-old toddler, and co-sleeping with him has gotten increasingly frustrating.

3. My husband doesn't like this arrangement any more than I do, although for different reasons.

4. Yes, I've tried everything. Yes, it's safe. Yes, I'd like it to be different. Your advice is not being solicited here. I need to vent.

Co-sleeping supporters tend to be the enthusiastic kind, the ones who are really into attachment parenting and point to cultures across the globe who don't put their offspring in cages in a separate room at night. They fiercely defend the practice against the traditionalists and the medically panicked alike.

I'm not one of those people, really. I'm doing it just because that's the only thing that worked for Max. I found myself trying to explain the history of his sleep habits and justify how he ended up in my bed here in this post, but I deleted all of that. You'll just have to believe me. From the day he was born he was like this, and having him sleep next to me was the last resort.

Gabe had slept in his own places, after all, with no trouble. Fifteen years later, I had every intention of my new baby sleeping in his own bed. We had a bassinet, a crib AND a playpen set up well before Max even came home. We were fools.

Getting Max to nap during the day in his crib was a major achievement that took months and months. Hell, just getting him to fall asleep in the first place is a victory every time. I spend hours of my life trying to rock him and sing to him and pat him. No, I don't let him Cry It Out. That's mean. And he doesn't cry. He just lies there awake, happy, waiting to throw a tantrum later in the day when we're out in public and he hasn't napped.

Nighttime is still ruled by co-sleeping. And not just sleeping in the same bed with me; Max wants to sleep cuddled up right up next to me, and I can't stand it. I don't like sleeping with anybody else, not even my husband.

Hold on -- there are several things I like to do with my husband in bed. (How do you think Max got here?) I'll cuddle, talk, have sex, horse around, even submit to the occasional spooning for a nap. But when it comes to really sleeping, at night, to recharge my body and brain?

Get. Off. Of. Me.

I don't need a BTU factory or a sheet stealer or a nerve pincher. I need a good rest. In a bed all to myself, with no one else's tossing and turning, snores, or farts other than my own. Selfish, I know.

My dear husband wants to sleep in a bed with his wife in it. Sigh. I suppose, but it's just all rather moot since there is a toddler in his spot. My husband is out to sea right now so it's not like he's getting much sleep at all, but when he comes home the guest bed is still waiting for him. I had hopes that I would train Max to sleep in his own crib at night by the time his daddy came back, but that plan is going to the same place where most of mine go lately: straight to shit.

Still, sleeping-as-in-sleeping with my husband would be better than sleeping with Max. Because the real issue is that Max likes to sleep with strands of my hair clenched in his grasp.

I forget when Max started using my hair as his security blanket, but it's lasted for more than a year now. Some kids suck their thumbs. Max holds my hair. He runs his fingers through it, he holds it taut and strums it like a guitar, he even sucks on it if I'm not paying attention.

He is still quite the restless sleeper at night, but he can usually self-soothe with a little handful of hair.

This does not mean restful sleep for me. Max doesn't just reach for my hair, really. He drowsily gropes for it, which means he first picks my nose or slaps me on the forehead before he finds my scalp. And as he has gotten older and more independently mobile, he also wants to be cuddled up RIGHT NEXT TO ME. He even tries to put his very heavy, bowling ball-like head on top of my head. No matter how much I push him over onto his own side, he rolls or scoots or slides until he is pressing every available body part against me.

It sucks.

Try being asleep and getting head-butted in the nose so squarely you bleed or poked in the eye so hard you see stars. Happens to me nightly. Oh, and try to conceal your rage. Try to feel like a good mom when you throw your toddler into his crib from a rather significant distance just because you can't freaking take it one more night and then feel how tightly his arms clutch around your neck when you go back in and pick him up and he goes instantly back to sleep because all he needs in his little life is a fistful of hair and a warm cuddle and the assurance of love from the woman who just moments before treated him like bag of trash thrown into a can.

Trust me, if I could get Max to sleep through the night in his own bed, I would. I was rather desperate to get it done while Dan is away. Then I would truly get some time in the bed all by myself. Because I know that as soon as I kick out the kid, the husband is going to come back in. At least he stays on his own side and hasn't punched me in the head yet.

I'm not looking for suggestions, or even sympathy. I'm just trying to put an alternate perspective out there on co-sleeping. Not everyone is doing it out of choice or good will. Some of us are doing it because it's the only way that works, and by that we mean what's best for our kids. It certainly isn't because it's what is best for us. So give us a break.

Just not on my nose.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Let's Pretend Caillou Gets Canceled

I'm about to join the legions of parents who express a deep and abiding hatred for the cartoon character Caillou.

My hairless baby unfortunately looked a lot like him, although we mostly got Charlie Brown references, thankfully. But why is Caillou hairless? He's like 4. Does he have cancer? Lice? A lazy artist?

No, insists publisher Chouette, from whose books PBS made the titular series. Caillou -- pronounced "ki-YU" -- is bald so that he can relate to all youth. According to Chouette's website:

"Caillou stands for all children. He doesn’t have curly blond hair, a carrot-top, brown hair, glasses, or ethnic features, because he represents all children. We wanted to make Caillou universal so every child could identify with him. And they do! Caillou’s baldness may make him different, but we hope it’s helping children understand that being different isn’t just okay, it’s normal."

Give me a break, Caillou is NOT representative of any other kid than a lily white one. He has parents with Caucasian skin, mousy brown hair and schlumpy clothes, and a little sister with plenty of orange hair. It's sort of creepy, in a vague, break-away religious cult kind of way.

And he is such a whiny brat of a boy. His incessant, plaintive dialogue is made all the more irritating by the high-pitched, nails-on-a-chalkboard sound that comes out of his mouth.

The narrator rubs me the wrong way too. She's always so very impressed with Caillou's antics, whereas I just want to tell him to shut the hell up and go sit in his room and read a book.

Even when raised in the most supportive, cognitively developed way, no child is going to pick Caillou when asked which cartoon character is most like him or her.

The PBS website claims that the show has evolved since the days I first suffered through it with Gabe. There seems to be a big focus on playing make-believe and building self-esteem and cultivating a child's imagination.

Are there children out there who are not imaginative? Is this a skill that has to be taught? Are we doing something that squelches imagination in children? I think Max will be fine without this show.

And besides, the new synopsis raises a red flag for me:

"Like other children, Caillou spruces up reality with a healthy dose of imagination. Each episode begins with an everyday event from Caillou's life that, through his mind's eye, quickly turns into a fantastic and larger-than-life adventure."

Hmm. I don't think I want my child concentrating that much on removing himself from reality all the time. I loved, loved, loved "The Neverending Story," but this show's premise just sounds like an early exposure to mental illness.